Good News in Feb/99 & earlier
[Commentary] © 1999,2004 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
2/28/99 Tobacco windfall sparking local fights, by Gail Gibson, Boston Globe, p. A15.
...Facing an unprecedented windfall [from the $206 billion settlement with Big Tobacco], local politicians are eyeing ways to steer the...spoils to everything from sidewalks to schools to flood-control projects....
2/27 Lycos CEO defends merger, by Hiawatha Bray, Bos Globe, C1.
Despite a falling stock price and a shareholder lawsuit, Waltham-based Internet portal Lycos Inc. is moving to complete its merger with business units of USA Networks Inc. [Said Lycos CEO Bob Davis,] "I believe very, very strongly that what we've created for ourselves is the next-generation Internet company....
[Either that or Frankenstein's monster. And the "very, very strongly"? Methinks Bob Davis doth protest too much for firm credibility - sounds rather like he's trying to convince himself.]
2/26 Vote to unionize is largest ever, leaders say - 75,000 home health-care workers in L.A. County to join SEIU, Chicago Tribune via Bos Globe, E2.
...the Service Employees International Union..\..the nation's fastest growing union.... Labor officials said it was the largest single group to join a union at one time in US history....
2/25 Rubin, Levitt oppose Senate plan to overhaul banking laws, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, D2.
[At last Rubin gets on the smart side of something, after backing "free trade" with the collapsing economies of Asia etc. Of course, he may be doing it for the wrong reason (Treasury power!) but hey, whatever preserves the banking regulations we learned the hard way in 1929 so we don't have to relearn them the hard way all over again.]
2/25 Save fishing industry with good old labor, Letter to Editor by J.P. Madden, Bos Globe, A16.
Re Gloucester Mayor Bruce Tobey's letter of Feb.12 ("How to save American fishing industry"): Come on, Mayor, is that all you guys can think of - more federal handouts? I first went to sea in the '40s on a cod-fishing boat our of Block Is. We'd easily put 400-plus pounds of fish in the hold - using hand lines!...
Let's face it: You cannot drag chains, dredges, and what-have-you over the bottom ad infinitum without damaging something. In this case they've destroyed what little breeding ground was left. Don't just give it a rest. Forget it, permanently.
Put the folks in smaller boats and get back to productive fishing the way it was meant to be - using hand lines. It ain't easy - but it does put lots of people to work and it puts food on the table - for everyone!
[Great advice, J.P., and the article on the opposite page drives home your point - ]
It's too soon to exploit just-recovering scallops beds, by Heather Leslie, op ed, Bos Globe, A17.
2/24 Greenspan: Fed ready to move if necessary - Chairman sees some risk to expansion but no rate changes expected soon, by Kimberly Blanton, Bos Globe, D1.
Federal Reserve chairman...told the US Senate yesterday that the economy's long-running expansion is at risk, requiring the central bank to stand ready to move interest rates in either direction.
[Good, here's hoping this confusion signals the exhaustion of the superficial interest-rate "solution"!]
2/23 Biogen announces buyback of 4m shares, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, D11.
...Cambridge-based Biogen...will repurchase the shares over the next two years for general corporate purposes such as its employee stock ownership plan [ESOP]. It finished its first-ever repurchase plan involving 2 million shares in November. Companies repurchase shares when they believe they are undervalued....
[Any ESOP boost is good news, as the *International Cooperative Association can tell you. It's a step on the road to layoff-proof cooperative ownership.]
2/22 Telecom Italia tries to thwart Olivetti bid - Hires advisers to repel $59b hostile takeover, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, B5.
ROME - ...Italy's number one phone company has hired Credit Suisse First Boston, Banca IMI SpA, and J.P. Morgan & Co. to help repel a hostile $59 billion bid by its rival...whose market value is seven times smaller..\.. To block the takeover, Telecom Italia wants the government to intervene and may try to bring in a foreign ally.... [The takeover plan,] the first for a former state-owned European phone monopoly [requires Italian government approval and] is made possible by the opening of Europe's telecommunications market to competition last year, a change that allowed new companies like Olivetti and its German ally Mannesmann AG, an engineering company, to challenge former monopolies such as Telecom Italia and Deutsche Telekom AG. To avoid antitrust concerns and help finance the bid...Olivetti will let Mannesmann buy its existing phone units, a move that also needs government approval. Mannesmann [would then] own two of Europe's top three mobile phone companies. It already operates Germany's biggest network....
["Oh what a tortured web we weave" - for no net gain in competitiveness. Why can't the high-testosteroned "leave well enough alone"? Because as they continue to reinvest in their own markets at a tiny fraction of the amount required to maintain those markets, let alone expand them, the markets naturally stagnate. Then the only way for the corporate Rambos to get the illusion of bigger-bigger-BIGGER is to engulf other companies. We wish Telecom Italia good luck at repelling this little-guy-masked big guy (Olivetti-masked Mannesmann).]
[Well, maybe this isn't as good as it sounds - ]
2/20 As union membership grows, leaders seek new ways to use power, by David Moberg, Boston Globe, F1.
[Why don't they get back "on issue" and back in control of their own overall supply (i.e., the overall labor supply = the supply of themselves) by enforcing overtime and cutting the workweek?!]
...Last year American unions signed up 475,000 new members, the most in many years, although with heavy job losses in manufacturing and other attrition, the net gain was about 100,000. The gain was not enough to match the growth in employment [or should we put "employment" in quotes because of what they're counting as "jobs" these days], and the union share [overall] dipped slightly to 13.9% [of the workforce]....
[And what are today's unions working on for "issues" - how's this for a lame strategy - ]
...Labor has its own positive agenda as well [as preserving Medicare and fighting privatization of Social Security], such as
2/20 South Korea - Making a comeback, The Economist, 38.
SEOUL - ...A big worry remains unemployment, which has risen to nearly 9% (from below 3% a year ago). It may scupper a truce with South Korea's militant trade unions. They are threatening to retreat from a three-way deal with employers and the government. The unions agreed to accept lay-offs, allowing business to increase productivity (but what good's productivity without markets?], so long as the government provided a social safety net.
[Same as American unions, employers and government in the 1930s.]
Now, however, union leaders claim the employers and the government have failed to keep their sides of the bargain.
[Are they "claiming" an exaggeration or merely pointing out the facts? Judging from the American prototype of this situation in the 1930s when employers and government never succeeded in reducing Depression levels of unemployment by even half until the War, South Korean union leaders are merely pointing out the facts.]
...Many of those who have kept their jobs complain they are working longer hours but earning some 20% less. The employers are accused of ducking responsibility for [dumb] investments, such as Samsung's reckless decision to enter the car business at a time of massive overcapacity.
[Why do business leaders keep making the same stupid, self-clobbering mistakes over and over and over again?]
..\..Instead of more layoffs, the unions now demand job-sharing and a reduction in working hours....
[In other words, they're demanding timesizing, not downsizing, and they've given up on government upsizing as inadequate (in the absence of wartime levels of mobilization). South Korea has just repeated in a one-year timeframe what the United States took 12 years to go through in 1929-1941.
[Let's start a count. Let's see how many times employers and business "leaders" all around the world have to make this same stupid mistake over and over again until they wake up and smell the coffee - There is NO WAY to raise productivity without damaging markets except by sharing the vanishing work and cutting workweeks. It cannot be done on the basis of productivity per person. It MUST be done on the basis of productivity per working hour so that the decreasing number of working hours demanded by a free market in an age of constantly rising levels of work-saving technology can be spread among more persons throughout an entire population to maximize markets, instead of being concentrated more and more tightly among smaller and smaller groups of people within a population, leading to the inexorable collapse of markets.]
2/19 [Massachusetts] Consumer confidence up, AP via Bos Globe, p. C5.
...The Mass Insight/New England Economic Project Consumer Confidence Index, a nonpartisan public policy group with corporate clients [ah, that would make it partisan in an economic sense, we're afraid]...jumped in January after declining for three quarters in 1998. Results for this January showed consumer confidence rebounding to 126..\.. [The index] is compiled from answers to five poll questions about people's economic confidence [in] a telephone poll of 500 people taken by the Cambridge-based Opinion Dynamics polling firm from Jan. 28 to Feb. 2. The answers to the individual survey questions [supposedly] had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
["A reprieve is a reprieve" - but only 500 people in the sample?!]
2/18/99 New Bedford union wins fight to save plant, AP via Boston Globe, p. C9.
...Warnaco Group of New York...informed 230 workers in January that [their Calvin Klein clothing distribution center in New Bedford, Mass.] was going to be shut down after their collective bargaining agreement ended in June. The workers, members of the Union of Industrial and Textile Employees, waged a letter-writing and petition campaign to keep the plant open. On Tuesday, the union announced that a tentative agreement has been reached to sell the facility to Aris Industries of New York....
[You know, we're sending out a real double message about working in this country. On the one hand, we're yelling "Get to work!" to people on welfare, and on the other hand, we're saying to people who are working, "We're doing you a big favor by letting you work here, you know, so work longer hours without pay, take pay and benefit cuts, and don't take any breaks. And we can lay you off and close this bothersome plant whenever we want to anyway." And that's without even considering the double message of wanting growing markets and a shrinking workforce!]
2/18 R.I. legislation would curb hospital mergers, AP via Bos Globe, C9.
Worried that consolidation in the hospital industry will weaken patient care, [state rep. Edward Inman (D-Coventry)] has proposed preventing any organization from controlling more than 50% of hospital beds in the state. The legislation threatens a planned merger of Lifespan and Care New England [that would] control nearly two-thirds of the hospitals and about 58% of all hospital beds in the state.... May Kiernan, spokeswoman for Care New England, said hospital services will be cut with or without mergers because hospital revenues are declining.
[Fine, then cut them without mergers and keep a few more jobs a little longer - and a bit more of your own market demand a little longer. Midst all this happytalk about our supposedly "robust economy," isn't anybody besides us begining to wonder why "revenues are declining" for hospitals and so many other industries? - and of course, that's why they have to keep merging and downsizing, but then "revenues are declining" even further, and that's why etc. etc. etc... = fundamental design problem (no automatic balance between supply and demand at full employment level - in fact, bias toward high un- and under-employment). All solved with minimal government intervention by Timesizing.]
2/18 Oregon suicide-law study finds no rush to end lives - Report also notes no evidence of painful deaths, AP via Bos Globe, A3.
SALEM, Ore. - In the first year under the nation's only assisted-suicide law, 15 terminally ill people in Oregon used it to end their lives, and there was no evidence that they suffered painful, lingering deaths as opponents had warned....
[We've always said that freedom is always and only two-way - freedom for and freedom from. And you can't be free for an easy and dignified life if you're not free for an easy and dignified death. This can only help Americans with something they've always had trouble with - saying goodbye. And when we can do that, we can all live more fully, because we'll find it easier to observe the old saying "Plan as if you will live forever, but live as if each day is your last," plus Carlos Castaneda's update "Take death as your advisor - your own death."]
[Great, a merger unglued! - ]
2/16 N.H. hospital merger fails over ethics impasse - Catholic, nonsectarian facilities clash over abortion, other issues, by Ralph Jimenez, Bos Globe, B1. [This is a follow-up on our story of 2/04 below.]
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Money and power also divided them, but in the end ethical issues, particularly on abortion, undid the five-year-old merger of Catholic Medical Center and nonsectarian Elliot Hospital....
[Hopefully this will save jobs.]
[Getting off our high horse vis à vis animals - ]
2/16 Bill would give rights to primates, by David Chandler, Bos Globe, front page.
Wellington, NZ - ...Should our primate cousins be entitled to the same [rights] that humans enjoy? These are no longer just philosophical musings, but have become part of an active legislative debate...expected to come to a vote next month..\.. A proposed amendment to an animal welfare law being considered by a House subcommittee in New Zealand would for the first time confer some basic legal rights on chimpanzees and other great apes.... Some see this as an important first step toward acknowledging humans' kinship with our closest relatives.... Regulations in many nations, including the United States, already protect apes used for research from being subjected to unnecessary suffering...but the proposed New Zealand law...promoted by an international organization called the Great Ape Project [attacks the whole concept of "using" apes in the first place and seeks to] prohibit any scientific or medical research that is not in the best interests of the animals themselves. That language...gives chills to those who contend that research using [any and all] animals...is needed to develop life-saving treatments for human diseases.
[Well, perhaps it's time we stopped taking ourselves and our own lives so blindly seriously - as if we're the only intelligent life on this planet. You'd think after four years of wealth-wasting fiasco from Kenneth Starr - and he's not stopped yet! - we'd start to severely qualify our own claim to intelligence. And that's without even broaching economic issues! The great apes include, in order of similarity to ourselves - bonobos (previously called pygmy chimps), chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. And there's a chance that the cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are smarter than the great apes. Then there's the elephants.... We should be teaching the animals our languages (and learning theirs - à la The Horse Whisperer), not merely "using" them to clutch an extra couple of years for our own often-miserable lives.]
[Impatience abuilding for real human progress once again? - ]
2/15 College activism, '90s style, unites two sides - Students, administrators agree on protests, by Kate Zernike, Bos Globe, front page.
The events of the past two weeks are reminding university administrators of [the 1960s' long-haired anti-establishment protests]: students staging sit-ins in presidents' offices, presenting them with lists of demands, chanting about moral imperatives in foreign lands. This time, the issues are fair wages and better conditions in the sweatshops that turn out billions of dollars in logo-emblazoned college gear. Across the country, they have set off a wave of student activism among a generation that has been labeled apathetic.
[Aaah, students finally passing beyond the Me Decade and the Be Happy decade, to realize that (A) there are huge problems, (B) they are involved in them because of where they go to school and what they spend their dough on and (C) they can stop spending their dough on them and pressure their schools to change suppliers. Hopefully that will bring a few students to the realization that (D) wages and conditions overseas reflect lack of any real progress here in the US except techy glitz, whizbang and cool toys - in the last analysis, trivial and BORING.
But this [wave of student activists carries] cell phones and laptops so they can do their homework (and get into good graduate schools). At Georgetown University [they] brought Dustbusters [to a sit-in to] clean up after themselves....] Hopefully a few students will come to the further realization that (E) you can swat mosquitos and swell your lists of issues all you want, but sooner or later you're gonna hafta get strategic and ask the Big Question that Phil Hyde asked in the wake of the 60s - "Is there one Master Problem whose solution would facilitate that of all the rest?" His answer? No Time. We're splitting into people with money and No Time, and people with the opposite. This is a design flaw in the way we intake technology. With Bucky Fuller's kind of comprehensive thinking, It Can Be Redesigned. And the most comprehensive redesign so far in print is Phil Hyde's Timesizing, Not Downsizing.]
The protests began at Duke the first weekend of the month...spread to Georgetown...the University of Wisconsin-Madison...Middlebury College....
[Hey, that's only four campuses So this could still peter out. But in the meantime...]
...at Wisconsin...Next up? A hunger strike.
[See also 4/18/99 story.]
2/15 The Committee to Save the World - The inside story of how the Three Marketeers [Greenspan, Rubin and Summers] have prevented a global economic meltdown - so far, by Joshua Ramo, Time Magazine, cover story, p. 34.
The Trinity: Will these men create the world financial system for the 21st century? [contents blowout]
[We doubt it. They changed nothing basic and so they just kept us on our unsustainable super-highway to a Black Hole economy, where so much wealth is concentrated so tightly that it's starving the markets that support its own investments.]
2/14 Untapped no longer - In these times of record-low unemployment, companies are focusing their training and recruiting efforts on a long-ignored pool of workers - the dispossessed, by Diane Lewis, Bos Globe, F1.
[Great, that just leaves out everyone in the over-50 age bracket plus our record-high prison population - and that's all-time record high. The "record-low unemployment" we're always hearing about (currently 3.3% statewide and 4.3% nationally) conveniently ignores our under-2% unemployment during World War II, a period when any unemployment over 2% set off alarms and when market forces took care of raising wages and benefits - we didn't need living-wage or even minimum-wage laws.]
That strong hiring has helped drop unemployment among minorities to historic lows nationally: 7.8% for blacks and 6.6% for Hispanics in January.
[These "historic lows" are diminished by the fact that we didn't keep minority records during and after World War II, but at least they're a step in the right direction.]
2/13 Rubin, Greenspan disagree again on banking overhaul, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, B5.
...At issue is whether the Fed or Treasury will emerge as the lead regulator of the new generation of US banks. Differences between [Federal Reserve Chairman] Greenspan and [Treasury Secretary] Rubin helped kill a banking overhaul last year and threaten it again this year.
[Good! The overhaul would reverse many of the genuine banking reforms learned the hard way in the Depression, and anything that delays this well-intentioned Road to déja-vu Hell is welcome! The Treasury Secretary as lead regulator would be a slight improvement over the totally unaccountable Fed Chairman because at least he's accountable to an elected official (the President), but lookee here - ]
Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach of Iowa said to prevent [killing the banking overhaul bill again this year] Congress may resolve the issue on its own.
[What a miracle that would be! Not only Congress actually doing something after years of nothing but drooling and repeating sexsexsex, but Congress actually taking back some responsibility for the banking system from the Fed, whither it passed the buck to save its cowardly political skin decades ago. Then when they "reform" the banks and we relive the 1930s all over again, we the people can make it stick a little longer in our oh-so-short memories by throwing the bums that passed it out of Congress, instead of having it all sheltered by the BS "expertise" of the Treasury Dept. or the Federal Reserve.]
['A reprieve is a reprieve' - ]
2/12 Retail outlets post gains in January - Department, clothing stores lead pack;... by Vincent Del Giudice, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, C3.
[Good news, but 'there are many eddies as the current rushes over the edge', for example, the rest of the headline...]
...gas sales figures slip.
...Falling energy prices depressed sales [figures] at gasoline stations.... [Sales figures also] declined at grocery stores...probably because of lower commodity prices - as well as furniture stores and restaurants and taverns....
[The economy continues its split into 'two tiers' - rich and poor. General prices continue their Depression-like decline while luxury goods prices continue to rise. We urgently need to start tracking sales figures separately in these two areas, so we quit diluting the ominous deflation of general price levels with the ominous inflation of carriage trade prices.] Industrywide sales benefited from unemployment at a 28-year low [and not counting any of the new under-employment and prison problem] and rising consumer spending [artificially inflated by over-extended consumer credit and puffed by inmixing luxury spending on the part of the rich], forces that made 1998 the second-best sales year [in 28 years?]. Also helping were the temporary price breaks, low-rate financing and special leases automakers are using to build or maintain [or overstate] market share..\.. Commerce Department officials last month said they believe automakers overstated [their sales figures]....
The last time gasoline prices were this low was in 1979, when they averaged 96.1 cents a gallon....
[This at a time when we should be taxing gas and pouring funds into research on renewable energy.]
Consumer spending rose last year at its fastest pace in 14 years.... A surge in early tax refunds [11% more than last year] and home-mortgage refinancing is giving them more money [$6.3b last year] to spend.
[Keep that bubble agrowin', Lawd - keep that bubble agrowin'! A reprieve gives us more time to design and test sustainable alternatives at the deep-structure level.]
[One potential acquirer gets smart - ]
2/11 Federal-Mogul pulls offer for auto brake maker [UK's LucasVarity], Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, C2.
...saying the purchase wouldn't clear its financial hurdles....
2/10 US worker productivity logs fastest rise in three years, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, F2.
...as unit labor costs fell, helping hold down inflation and boosting corporate profits.
[which go immediately into the vaults of the top 5% and are never seen again.
[Every rise in worker productivity without a commensurate fall in the workweek puts workers into deeper surplus and downward wage pressures. Further, it intensifies the concentration of wealth which is already so concentrated it's stifling the markets away from its own gargantuan investment targets.
[The way to hold down inflation without clobbering your own consumer markets is to make the top of the workweek a mode-shift zone, above which companies and employees, if and only if they wish to work overtime, must shift out of 'work absorption' mode to 'job creation' mode. One way this can be done is through a tax on overtime with an exemption for reinvestment in overtime-targeted skills. Our manual tells all about it.]
2/09 OSHA faults firms in scaffold deaths, AP via Bos Globe, C16.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] cited three contractors yesterday for alleged safety violations in connection with a Quincy scaffolding collapse that killed two...workers last year. After a 6-month investigation, the agency concluded that the main cause of the collapse was the overloading of the scaffold....
[Penalties totalling nearly $314,000 were proposed.]
[Silver lining - ]
2/07 Economic downturn slows South America's arms race, by John Donnelly, Knight Ridder via Bos Globe, A15.
...Last week the presidents of Ecuador and Peru, having settled a century-old border war, announced they would not spend any more money on weapons. Instead, they hope to raise $3 billion for social progams and for building roads, bridges, and housing.... The constricting global economy and two leaders' visions of better lives for their people - have created a chance to slow...South America's arms race, which had been inching back toward Cold War levels.... This turnabout is particularly...unexpected because the Clinton administration only two years ago lifted a ban on sales of the most advanced weapons to Latin America. In 1997, many...predicted that would spur a new arms race.
[Interesting how we're spending $30,000/yr locking up small fry in the drug trade while okaying the arms trade. America's suicidal tendencies blaze on but occasionally get blocked, no thanks to us.]
2/05 Economic data point to strong US growth, AP via Bos Globe, C2.
The strongest surge [2.3% in holiday-inflated Dec.] in factory orders in [13 months], an unexpected dip [of 9000] in applications for unemployment benefits [to only a 6-week low of 292,000 last week]...show that the economy is starting 1999 with a bang [or "bang"]....
[We amplify the good news and minimize the bad news. But a respite is a respite.]
2/05 Fed indicates it's not leaning toward higher or lower rates - [Dec. 22] Minutes show unanimous vote to stay pat, by Michael McKee, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, C2.
WASHINGTON - ..."For now at least, monetary policy [i.e., existing rate levels] appeared to be consistent with the committee's objectives of fostering sustained low inflation and high employment," the report concluded.... The panel dropped a bias toward lower rates in November.
[And "knock us over with a feather," the Fed has started talking about high employment as a goal again, after an exclusive decades-long focus on low inflation! Of course, their concept of "high employment" is pretty low, considering the ongoing stagnation of wages, concentration of wealth and record prison population. But hey, the last two are negligible "externalities," like the rising length of the workweek for fulltimers, as far as standard economics is concerned.]
2/04 MBNA credit operations to add 2,000 Maine jobs, AP via Bos Globe, C9.
...in five locations (Belfast, Rockland, Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Farmington)..\.. in what Maine Governor Angus King called a business expansion of historic proportions....
[Omigosh, a case where a de-merger would be better?! - ]
2/04 End merger, hospitals' panels say - Criticism, abortion issue strained union, AP via Bos Globe, C15.
MANCHESTER, NH - The contentious merger between Elliot Hospital and Catholic Medical Center [CMC] should be dissolved, two special boards appointed by the hospitals say. Though the hospitals share common goals, each best serves the community differently and should be run independently, Joseph Acorace, chairman of the CMC board, said Tuesday.... The two hospitals merged into Optima Healthcare in 1994.... Before the merger and in its early stages, Elliot Hospital performed medically necessary abortions. Abortions later were banned altogether, at the request of the [Roman Catholic] Diocese of Manchester.... [Later,] Optima imposed CMC's [less restrictive] abortion policies on Elliot Hospital.
[See 2/03 Collapse story "As [president's] pay rises, UMass plans fee hikes" and then read this - ]
2/04 [Mass. Gov.] Celucci fires warning over UMass hikes - Talks of a $4.6m budget cut, seeks to curb trustees' power, by T. Cassidy and K. Zernike, Bos Globe, frontpage.
[Previous governor unaccountably made sleazebag Billy Bulger head of the University of Massachusetts and two days ago, Billy jumped his own salary while planning a tuition hike. Now-Gov. Celucci appears ready to shut down the party - thank God.]
2/03 [Dept of Environmental Mgmt] Adopts State Policy Protecting Old Growth Forests, Massachusetts Sierran, current issue (Dec-Jan just arrived), frontpage.
...after a comprehensive public review.... The policy defines Eastern Old Growth Forests based on input from the scientific community, and then establishes measures to protect these forest stands throughout the [state]...about 700 acres...mostly on state owned lands [because] these ecosystems are so rare and valuable.... The state's largest known...stand of Old Growth, 165 acres, is located on Mt Wachusett.... To learn more, visit... *http://web.idirect.com/~sierra
[More opposition to getting Social Security into stocks - ]
2/2 US, stocks not a good mix - Political influence would hurt performance, economy, Martin and Kathleen Feldstein, Bos Globe, D4.
[Notice how none of these cheerleaders are mentioning the real reason - Wall Street is a casino, and when it goes down, we need government to rescue us, not to go down with it!
[How-e-ver, we have always said that we need to build on the separation of Church and State by separating State and Market, and we certainly don't want to undo it by confusing social security with Wall St. insecurity.]
[Brief Respite dept. - ]
2/2 Factory outlook brightens after slump, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, D3.
WASHINGTON - ...The National Association of Purchasing Management's production index rose to 53.1 in January from 46.8 in December - the first increase in four months and the highest level since May. Readings above 50 mean more manufacturers reported expanded production [but not by how much] than those saying they're cutting back. Consumer spending rose 0.8% in December [doesn't sound great for a holiday season that retailers have been waiting for all year].... 0.5% rise in personal income [some firms still giving holiday bonuses?].... And construction spending registered its seventh straight monthly increase...paced by gains in home building.
[The economy's careen into depression is never a straight line. Here we enjoy a temporary stay in our meander toward execution.]
2/01/99 An appeal to world business, by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Bos Globe, A15.
...The spread of markets far outpaces the ability of societies and their political systems to adjust to them, let alone to guide the course they take. And history teaches us that such an imbalance between economic, social, and political realsm can never be long sustained. The industrialized countries learned that lesson in the Great Depression....
1/29/99 Massachusetts reports [30,000-member] boost in labor enrollment, by Diane Lewis, Bos Globe, E3.
...not only did [Massachusetts] add union members [increasing membership by 7.1%] but the proportion of people in the state's work force who are unionized also increased in 1998, to 15.9% from 15.1% in 1997 [according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics yesterday]..\..
The agency's findings came two days after it reported a nationwide net gain of 101,000 union members [but a 0.2%] drop in the overall proportion of union employees in the [national] work force to 13.9% in 1998....
[Good news - Researchers finally focusing on central problem - ]
1/23 Longer workweek burdens couples, researchers find - Women frustrated by fewer job options, by Daniel Haney, AP via Bos Globe, 3.
ANAHEIM, Calif. - A study of two-career couples finds that the number of hours they spend on the job has risen substantially in the past two decades. And they don't like it.... Marin Clarkberg, a Cornell University sociologist...and other researchers [surveyed 4,554 married couples in 1988 and 1994 as part of their National Study of Families and Households and presented their findings] yesterday at a meeting of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science. Both sexes feel stressed [but women more so].... The reason: too few part-time jobs for women with families. Existing part-time jobs often pay poorly and do not offer health insurance or other benefits....
[Yet part-time jobs are always included in "jobs created" data to outweigh "jobs lost."]
The job market is still largely geared toward...working full-time or not at all [and "full time" is still rigidly regarded as a minimum 40-hour workweek. Technology is supposed to make life easier] but the researchers said the technology often seems to result in people working still more. "People can work any place, any time, but they can also work everywhere, all the time," said [Phyllis Moen, another Cornell sociologist.] Between 1972 and 1994, couples' total average working time has increased by seven hours a week..\.. Half of all the women and 20% of the men said they wished they could work part time.
[Wake up, Republicans - you ain't gonna git family values with no family time!]
1/17 Worldwatch sees profit in avoiding disasters, AP via Bos Globe, A24.
WASHINGTON - The Worldwatch Institute sees disaster looming on several fronts in its [annual] look at the state of the planet.... But researchers also see the possibility of an economic boom for governments and companies willing to head off social and environmental problems.... Avoiding calamity "represents the greatestt investment opportunity in history," says the institute's founder, Lester R. Brown. Brown points to efforts to recycle raw materials and development of alternative energy sources, particularly wind power. Without a new economy based on renewable resources, he said, there will be rapid deforestation, falling water tables, and accelerating climate change....
[One] question...is which countries will lead in the new technologies. Now, Germany is ahead of the United States in development of the $2 billion wind power industry, and Japan leads in use of solar energy.... "The need to shift [current rising trends in oil consumption, water use...] is going to create some significant economic disruptions and some of the biggest investment opportunities," [said Christopher Flavin, one of several co-authors of the report].
[3 items of good news for a change? - ]
[Don't miss this example of a goodnews article on welfare-to-work -]
12/09/98 Faring well - former recipient turns life around with job training, by Francie Latour, Boston Globe, B1.
[Note the critical role of job training. What we need is to modernize the economy and fold automatic and continuous training and retraining right into the workplace. This is one of the three big things that Timesizing incentivates (the other two being continuous reinvestment-deconcentration for consumer-base maintenance and continuous control of the labor surplus for wage maintenance.)]
[Getting wise to the linguistics of financial happytalk - ]
12/05/98 Bubble babble, The Economist, 87.
...In the interest of self-improvement we are introducing an occasional series: beating the jargon.... As any self-respecting financial journalist knows, stockmarkets never simply decline or fall, they shudder, swoon, haemorrhage, crash, plunge or sink in a river of blood. That is, of course, unless they are subject to profit-taking or a correction, which happen when the writer has recently predicted they will surge, soar, balloon, burgeon, and so forth.
Periods of falling share prices, such as this summer, bring forth much talk of meltdown, bloodbaths and volatility. Oddly, however, share prices are "volatile" only when they are falling. When they start rising again, they have "stabilised," rallied, bounced or sprinted to safety - implying that such rises reflect economic fundamentals. Thus crazy gains in share prices are perversely viewed as "stability", while a drop to more realistic levels is seen as instability. This reinforces the dangerous view that huge rises are normal and sustainable.
A related abuse is that recessions tend to be described by businessmen and politicians as cyclical downturns, while economic booms are never cyclical expansions. This is convenient: bad times are the fault of impersonal economic forces; good times the results of far-sighted human decisions....
[Note the linguistically built-in subsidy of the financial industry here. Governments now sponsors lotteries. Our very language sponsors the stock market. "Dangerous" indeed, and commentary reminiscent of the wry humor of John Kenneth Galbraith.]
10/21/98 Ecology project sees religion role - A move to tap 'moral force', by Scott Allen, Boston Globe, A20.
The world's major religions must do far more to provide the "moral force" behind environmental preservation, such as persuading people to make sacrifices and help the victims of pollution, according to the results of a Harvard University project released at the UN yesterday. The Harvard Project on Religion & Ecology, which involved more than 1,000 scholars, clerics, and activists worldwide, found that believers in the 10 most popular religions have barely scratched the surface of powerful religious defenses of Mother Nature.
[Ah, WHAT "powerful religious defenses of Mother Nature"? - the ones the Project just thought up? No wonder then!]
Instead, project leaders say, [religions] often settle for fables such as St. Francis's love of animals. "It's clear that religions are continuing traditions and that's part of their strength, but they have to change to meet challenges," said Mary Evelyn Tucker, a Bucknell University religion professor who started the Harvard Project....
[How did she sink her chompers into Harvard, pray tell? Oh here it is - Harvard has a new Forum on Religion & Ecology to act as a "clearinghouse" alias coordinator alias controller.]
"This is a new moral issue that religions need to adapt to."...
[Has Mary Tucker never heard of "new bottles for new wine"? And ultimately she has it backwards. All our morality will, in the longer term, be coming from ecology (insofar as it isn't already), not from religion (except in the etymological sense of "religion" = rereading). And the "longer" term is arriving faster every year. The Anthropological Age took hundreds of thousands of years. The Sociological, Geographic-Historical, and Political-Science Ages got shorter and shorter. The Economic Age only started around 1676 (Sir Wm. Petty's Political Arithmetick), and is already being replaced by the Ecological Age, so it's only lasting a few centuries. There is an acceleration in human evolution. See our Football of Time.]
[One company that does it right -]
10/10/98 Volkswagen Won't Add Workers Next Year - An expected slump in auto sales ends a 4-year hiring spree [that increased worldwide workforce by 19%], Bloomberg via NYT, B2.
Volkswagen has hired 12,000 people so far this year, though it does not expect to hire any more this year or next, because of a more flexible manufacturing process and an expected slowdown in demand, Peter Hartz, the memger of the company's managing board responsible for personnel, said [Oct. 9] in an interview. "The best employment program there is are good products, but it would be a great thing if we can keep the number of employees we have at the moment," Mr. Hartz said....
Mr. Hartz, who was in Frankfurt to receive an award on behalf of VW for hiring the most people in Germany last year, said Volkswagen had added 47,000 workers in the last four years at its 38 production sites around the world. The total number of employees, including those at Audi, SEAT and Skoda, is now 295,000 people.
Mr. Hartz said that in the future, to avoid a hire-and-fire atmosphere, company negotiations with workers would focus more on the length of the workweek rather than job numbers. [YES!] A main point in wage talks with German workers next year will be an extension of the 28.8-hour week [back] to 35 hours.
"There is a new ideology now where we speak about new orders," Mr. Hartz said. "If we have many, then we work a lot. If we have few, we work less and try to organize it without firing people."
Volkswagen's shares rose 4.3 marks [Oct.9], to 101 ($62.81).
[VW of Germany, together with Nucor of Charlotte and Lincoln Electric of Cleveland, is one of the smartest companies in the world for kicking around its workweek instead of its workforce and thus preserving skills, morale, and markets. We predict the shares of these three companies and others like them will soon be the safest havens in the stock markets worldwide. VW in the early 90s saved its hometown of Wolfsburg by taking a town-gutting downsizing of 30,000 job-equivalents in terms of a workweek downsizing (i.e., a "timesizing") of 6.2 hours from a 35-hr corporate workweek to a 28.8-hr one. Pay came down halfway to the 32-hr level, but EVERYONE KEPT EMPLOYED. Contrast this with the dinosauroid stupidity of General Motors, whose 74,000 layoffs in the early 90s destroyed their hometown of Flint, Mich. and was rightly ridiculed in Michael Moore's movie, "Roger and Me."]
9/06/98 Saying 'no' to the boss - Workers are rebelling against forced overtime, by Lonnie Golden, Bos Globe, C1.
The Bell Atlantic and US West telecom work stoppages, the strike by Northwest Airlines pilots, and the walkout at General Motors all involve disputes over mandatory overtime.... Since 1989, Americans have, on average, increased their workweek by more than two hours. That adds up to three weeks a year. In contrast, every country in the EU has witnessed a decline in work hours over the last 10 years.... Thus the stage is set for a new national discussion about how long a workweek should be....
[Note that timesizing says the workweek should not be fixed but slowly adjusting against an unemployment rate that must be redefined to include everyone dependent on the taxpayer - welfare, disability, homelessness, prisons. The target rate should be set by a repeating referendum and, if unemployment goes up, the workweek should adjust downward and vice versa. The adjustment would never be more than an hour a month, and the adjustment rate would also be set by the referendum.]
10/06/97 [European trade] unions still firm behind shorter workweek, PR newswire, www.etuc.org/press_archives/press97/PR2397.cfm (live link as of 5/5/99)
Any suggestion that the [ETUC] *European Trade Union Confederation's discussion conference...on 2 and 3 October  in Brussels on "New paths in working time policy" signals a ditching of the demand for the 35-hour week would be jumping to simplistic conclusions. The reality is anything but. The negotiated 35-hour week was reaffirmed at the ETUC's Brussels Congress. It was, is and will remain a priority for European trade unions.
But today's mass unemployment means that the reduction/reorganization of working time must be tackled in different and even more ambitious ways. So the 35-hour week has acquired new dimensions, like action to cut overtime, bringing in continuing vocational training throughout working life, opportunities for phased retirement,.... The common aim of all these things must be to create the extra new jobs needed....